Reading The Complete WWF Video Guide Volume 4 and in it it says that Bret was gonna win the 1997 Rumble but Russo, as Vic Venom, said on Live Wire that Bret was the only reasonable person who could win the Rumble, and in the authors words, broke kayfabe. So Vince changed it to the Austin.
Now I wasn't reading the Torch or Observer back then but I read every website like Tidbits, Micasa, Online Onslaught etc, which I assume got all its news from Meltzer and Keller and remember nothing ever being reported like that.
True? False? And was Bret supposed to beat Austin at what ended up being IYH Final Four to get his title shot back? If so, what becomes of Austin at Mania? Austin/Vader?
The Rumble one is correct, the Final Four one was a bullshit online rumor that ended up getting spread by myself among others.
From the Observer:
"The attendance was the story of the show and the saving of the show, which saw Shawn Michaels capture the WWF title from Sid in the main event and Steve Austin win the Royal Rumble in a late swerve. Those at Titan believed too many fans knew the original plan of Bret Hart winning and were concerned, perhaps overly so, that Vic Venum (Vince Russo) had "given it away" (he predicted it ala a Mark Madden gimmick where he knows a planned finish and then predicts it to get himself over) to make himself look smart on their own Live Wire television in the early days of the promotion of this show (Venum later came back the next week after getting heat and said nobody could predict a winner of a bout like a Royal Rumble). It was the classic case of reactive booking instead of pro-active booking. The problem with reactive booking means those who are supposed to be in control are no longer in control and they are reacting to forces rather than creating and controlling the forces. This is not meant as a knock on it because if the end result is still Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart at Wrestlemania, the long-term battle plan has changed along the way but has the same ultimate destination. The change in Rumble plans changed the four corners match on the 2/16 Chattanooga PPV from having the supposed top four in the WWF--Sid, Shawn Michaels, Austin and Bret Hart, to the final four in the Rumble--Bret Hart, Austin, Vader and Undertaker with the title shot at Michaels at Wrestlemania being at stake to the winner."